Sometimes I do crazy shit
So the other day I was thinking about my future. I think about it once in awhile. As in, what do I want to do when I grow up? What career path will I be interested in once these shorties are off at school, not wanting to acknowledge me as their mother after spending the first five years of their lives trying to crawl back inside of me?
One of the things I'm interested in doing is becoming a paralegal. I know that feels a little Sally Struthers-infomercial of me, but it's something I'm interested in. I can write, I'm detail-oriented to the point of qualifying for some kind of diagnosis, and I'm organized. And paralegals are in demand. And it pays decent for what it is, IMHO. So I was dicking around online looking at the program offered by our local technical college, thinking about whether I would really want to try to get a paralegal certificate. And then I randomly clicked on the technical college's job openings. And then I found a posting for a grant writer person. And then I applied for the job, without thinking about it.
The job was posted in October, and they were looking to fill it by January. I figured the position was probably already filled and the whole thing was just a silly little exercise in looking up my previous employer's contact information and filling it into an obnoxious online application.
I was incorrect.
They contacted me the next day and said they were "delighted to see my application come through" and asked me to submit some writing samples.
Then I had to think about it. I have been thinking about it pretty much non-stop. The short version is that I have decided I will see the process through and not make an actual decision about this until I have a real decision to make. Who knows if it will ever come to that. Who knows. My spouse and I have decided that it's good to at least participate in the process as an exercise in keeping the rust from growing too thick on my professional gears.
But of course what I'm really ruminating on is whether or not I would actually go back to work full-time if I had the chance. Which I may or may not.
How much time do you people have?
Because really, it's just about the most complex decision in the world. The big, looming factor is finances. Our finances suck. I've been pretty open about that. Big K and I are okay with the fact that our finances suck, but we are admittedly growing increasingly weary and nervous. We've worked really hard to keep this ship afloat for these years of SAHM-induced penny pinching, and I'm going to be really honest here and say I would just like to go shopping. I know it's bullshit compared to all the stuff that really matters, but OMG my tennis shoes are stained and torn and I wear a size 13 which is not cheap and man I'd like a new pair. We're not going without in any real meaningful way and our new house is bomb shack, but I think that any reasonable person knows what I mean here.
This job pays decent. Significantly less than what I was making when I bailed on corporate life 6 years ago, but an okay salary that isn't totally embarrassing. And good benefits, although I don't really need them courtesy of my spouse.
Unfortunately, I've spent some time researching childcare costs, and I am horrified to learn that with 3 kids in various stages of needing childcare, I would only clear a few hundred dollars a month after I pay for all the childcare. Which, for the record, is bullshit. How do all you people pay for childcare? I read recently that Wisconsin ranks 4th in the nation for childcare costs. That's a bitch. A real bitch. Obviously as my children enter various stages of school in the next couple years that math starts to tip more favorably in my direction, but I wouldn't really see a significant paycheck until all 3 kids are in school full-time. The few hundred bucks would eventually increase to a thousand bucks and then some day when Phook can babysit for her siblings in the summer (when the hell is that, even???) I'd actually see real dollars.
Which is, in and of itself, a pretty significant argument for not going back to work until all 3 kids are in school full-time.
The thing is, I think I'd actually like this job. If I had actually been looking for a job on purpose, I'd want this one. So it'd be nice to have it when I am officially ready to go back to work. But I'm not sure if it will be there then. Which makes me think it might be a little bit worth it to try to get the job now and clear very little money for a couple years so I have a job I actually like locked up. For my, um, future. (That rarely considered thing that it is.)
And right after I go through that nice logical little thought process, I start bawling. About the children. And putting them in childcare. And missing shit. And not being there for them as much. And turning our nicely-paced family life into this crazily rushed fly-by-night operation. For little more than nothing.
My God. I can't even think about this without wanting to self-immolate. It is so complex and difficult and bullshit. And right now, it's even imaginary. It's not like I have a job offer in my lap just yet.
I want to be clear that I do not have any fear about how my children will "turn out" based on what comes of this. I am 100% confident of the fact that my children will do well with 2 loving and committed parents, regardless of our employment status. I feel perhaps freakishly assured that this will not "screw them up." We are, and will continue to be, committed to these kids above all else and they will thrive. They are adaptable and securely attached and they would adjust to childcare settings in due time and it would just become a new normal for them. Not losing any sleep over that.
The devil is in the details. Every year I go out to the garden with a packet of bean seeds and painstakingly help chubby fingers plant a very crooked garden. Every birthday party has something (many somethings) special and homemade by me. We go to libraries and children's museums and parks and campgrounds not for special events but as our every day life. And I (and presumably they) love this every day life. Can I be a good mother without that? Yes. But it feels like I'm being skinned alive to think about it.
It is just back to that old question, the one that I have been kicking around like a can in my brain for years now. At what point do I accept that my children will naturally begin to separate from me at some point anyhow, and it might be time to pursue financial security and long-term planning instead of clinging to my SAHM life like it can really last forever? If this opportunity becomes real, might it be time to shift that gear?
I was working on putting together my writing samples today and I had to write a summary of why I was submitting those samples. I was dreading it. But you know what? It actually felt pretty good. Really good, actually. To tap into that professional side of my brain and spin the great yarn of why I am an ass-kicker who would be cheap at twice the price. Because you know what? It's fucking true. I am an ass-kicker of a professional. I remember. I am really good at shit and I am an ass-buster. You wouldn't need to do a reference check to get that information. You could literally call anyone who has ever met me--haters included--and get that information back. I am a good person to employ. There is, I think, a little part of me that wouldn't mind re-entering that space. I might psychologically benefit from being an ass-kicker again in the non-cupcake-making realm of my skill set. I am not as awesomely patient as I once was at home with these kids. Because I am tired. I am oh so tired. I have been wiping noses 24 hours a day for 6.5 years straight and, well, I admit I am feeling some burnout. I admit that I am. Sometimes I feel like I just need a little break from being in this house with little kids, but when I get that little break, I'm no longer refreshed by it. I am impatient and upset again very soon after re-entering their presence. Which I think defines burnout. Which is deeply upsetting. It is also January and the windchill here right now is something like 200 below zero, so we can attribute a little of the burnout to that. But not all of it. Not all of it.
And we're right back to crying.
Because OMG I only get one shot at being with these little kids. Because they will eventually outgrow it. Even if I don't. Jobs will be there. Two-year-old's expire. I am wailing. I am just wailing.
I think you all officially know--if you got this far in my drivel-y brain dump--that I am feeling extremely conflicted. I know that those of you who have been reading this blog for years probably know that I respect all women and their choices and that this isn't a mommy wars post. It's a Big W vs. Big W post, and I post it as an ode to all women, all mothers, and the bullshit that is making choices where there are important things to lose on either side. And to the bullshit that is childcare costing almost the entirety of a professional salary. And to the bullshit of being classified as a working mom or a part-time mom or a stay-at-home-mom because to that I say screw off...those categories do not exist. We are all just moms and it is really, really hard. Any mom worth her stretch marks is 100% mom in all the ways that really matter.
And I love you and I need therapy.
And there has been a stomach bug mowing people down in this house recently, which makes everything I would normally say come out like I've doused it in gasoline and set a match to it.
And I need therapy.
Maybe pray that they hate my writing samples and I never hear from them again. Or maybe pray that they love them. I wish I knew which to ask for.